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Background Information My wife and I planned this cruise in celebration of our anniversary. It was my wife's first cruise, and for me, it seemed like my first even though I had taken the Carnival Jubilee when I was a teenager in 1990. We had considered going directly to an island to stay at a resort or going to Hawaii, but we decided on the cruise for several reasons: 1)Always wanted to take a cruise - Other relatives had rave reviews of cruises 2)Visit many different islands rather than having to choose one sight unseen 3)Variety of activities on ship and in ports We choose the Serenade of the Seas and the Eastern/Southern Caribbean route because of the variety of the different ports and the great reviews of this ship class. Travel To Port of Embarkation To get to San Juan, we flew direct from Dallas on American Airlines. We toured El Morro and Old San Juan the morning before we left on the cruise. It was a great way to start the vacation. Hotel Info at Port of Embarkation We arrived in San Juan the night before embarkation and stayed at the Doubletree San Juan since we had hotel points. The hotel was very nice and clean. There was a 24-hour Grocery Store across the street that allowed us to stock up prior to leaving with water, juice and snacks. However, the location otherwise was not very close to anything. The Condado beach area was about a 15-20 minute walk away, but otherwise, you need a taxi to the airport or Old San Juan for any other activities. A bus did stop across the street, but the front desk staff warned you might have to wait a while at the stop. To get to the Pan American Pier, we took a taxi. Ship Info The Serenade of the Seas was big enough you had plenty to do but at the same time not so large you could find yourself lost. The front staircase had people artwork on each level, and the main staircase near the centrum had flowers on different artwork. We took advantage of all three pools (even going down the kid's slide!), climbed on the Rock Climbing Wall, played miniature golf at midnight, and enjoyed the view from almost every deck at some point. The pools are salt water and seemed to be much more salty than backyard pools on land that are salt water. For me, it was not as refreshing as I would have liked in the hot sun. Activities Onboard, we took part in a couple of activities during the week when we were not in port. They had a "midnight" buffet at 11:30 p.m. one evening to celebrate the opening of the pool after it was freshly painted. We attended the Captain's Talk on the day at sea. It was an interesting and informative discussion by the captain, first engineer, and hotel director. After the Captain's Talk, the cruise director and executive sous chief held a cooking demonstration to make a Black Forest cake. One person from the audience got to help what ended up being a comedy cooking show! We also attended one of the art auctions, but I felt like it was a waste of time. The auctioneer definitely took his time talking about rare and expensive art pieces in hopes someone would purchase them. If you are in the market for art, it might be worth your time. Service In all areas of the ship, we felt like we had great service. Our Main Dining Room Staff came to know us by name and knew what we liked to drink each night. Our room steward always efficiently had our room made-up anytime we left it. Other waiters and service personnel on the ship were attentive and courteous at all times. Port & Shore Excursions On 4 of the 5 ports, we took part in excursions. Three of those excursions were booked through the cruise line with the one remaining excursion booked through a private company. My port reviews will have more details, but overall, we were pleased with the excursions and the efficiency of getting to and from the sites. Stateroom We were in 7158, an E-class balcony stateroom. It was a great location far enough away from the main stairs that we never heard any external noise. From what we could tell, several of the E balconies on level 7 are bigger than other balconies because of their position above the Schooner Bar/Portofino/Chops. On the deck plans, you will see balconies 7152 to 7170 and 7652 to 7670 extend farther then the midship balconies. This gave us about 4 extra feet. Dining We ate all dinner meals in the Main Dining Room at the 8:30 p.m. seating. We normally eat much earlier, but this was a great seating time for us. Returning from the ports in the late afternoon, we were able to do short activities, attend an early show at 7 p.m., and just relax before having to get ready for dinner. All of our meals were very good with great variety - at least 8 different entrEe choices across 2 different menus. We sat directly in the center of the main dining room on the lower level at a table of 6. We enjoyed our tablemates and like talking to them about their adventures at the end of each day. For breakfast and lunch, we typically ate at the Windjammer Cafe. We enjoyed the variety of menu items on the buffet as we could always find something good. They have plenty of fresh fruit in addition to desserts! Entertainment On our cruise, there was a variety of entertainment: comedian (2 nights), Broadway style shows (2 nights), Motown group, Latin Dancing Group, and a musician/impersonator. The onboard orchestra was featured in nearly all the shows, and they were very good. Most of the shows were entertaining, but when the show was late (i.e. 10:30 p.m. after dinner), it was hard to stay awake in a dark, slightly rocking theater. The Cruise Director also put together the Love & Marriage show we attended. It was very funny and worth the time (though don't bring the young kids). Disembarkation Our last morning on the ship was very smooth. I got up at 5 a.m. to watch the ship enter San Juan Harbor. It was very pretty in the calm of the predawn, and I think I was the only one up on the front of the ship besides the captain and crew! We were docking by about 6 a.m. Since we had a late flight out of San Juan, we were one of the last groups to disembark about 9:15 a.m. We checked out of the ship one last time with the swipe of our SetSail pass and then down the gangway to retrieve our luggage and then out through Customs. It took no more than 5 minutes. Summary We thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise together, and we definitely think we picked the best ship and itinerary for us. I would highly recommend the Serenade of the Seas for any couple looking for a great getaway and trip to the Eastern/Southern Caribbean.

Exciting and Relaxing Anniversary Cruise on the Serenade

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by kjhighball

Trip Details
Background Information My wife and I planned this cruise in celebration of our anniversary. It was my wife's first cruise, and for me, it seemed like my first even though I had taken the Carnival Jubilee when I was a teenager in 1990. We had considered going directly to an island to stay at a resort or going to Hawaii, but we decided on the cruise for several reasons: 1)Always wanted to take a cruise - Other relatives had rave reviews of cruises 2)Visit many different islands rather than having to choose one sight unseen 3)Variety of activities on ship and in ports
We choose the Serenade of the Seas and the Eastern/Southern Caribbean route because of the variety of the different ports and the great reviews of this ship class.
Travel To Port of Embarkation To get to San Juan, we flew direct from Dallas on American Airlines. We toured El Morro and Old San Juan the morning before we left on the cruise. It was a great way to start the vacation.
Hotel Info at Port of Embarkation We arrived in San Juan the night before embarkation and stayed at the Doubletree San Juan since we had hotel points. The hotel was very nice and clean. There was a 24-hour Grocery Store across the street that allowed us to stock up prior to leaving with water, juice and snacks. However, the location otherwise was not very close to anything. The Condado beach area was about a 15-20 minute walk away, but otherwise, you need a taxi to the airport or Old San Juan for any other activities. A bus did stop across the street, but the front desk staff warned you might have to wait a while at the stop. To get to the Pan American Pier, we took a taxi.
Ship Info The Serenade of the Seas was big enough you had plenty to do but at the same time not so large you could find yourself lost. The front staircase had people artwork on each level, and the main staircase near the centrum had flowers on different artwork. We took advantage of all three pools (even going down the kid's slide!), climbed on the Rock Climbing Wall, played miniature golf at midnight, and enjoyed the view from almost every deck at some point. The pools are salt water and seemed to be much more salty than backyard pools on land that are salt water. For me, it was not as refreshing as I would have liked in the hot sun.
Activities Onboard, we took part in a couple of activities during the week when we were not in port. They had a "midnight" buffet at 11:30 p.m. one evening to celebrate the opening of the pool after it was freshly painted. We attended the Captain's Talk on the day at sea. It was an interesting and informative discussion by the captain, first engineer, and hotel director. After the Captain's Talk, the cruise director and executive sous chief held a cooking demonstration to make a Black Forest cake. One person from the audience got to help what ended up being a comedy cooking show! We also attended one of the art auctions, but I felt like it was a waste of time. The auctioneer definitely took his time talking about rare and expensive art pieces in hopes someone would purchase them. If you are in the market for art, it might be worth your time.
Service In all areas of the ship, we felt like we had great service. Our Main Dining Room Staff came to know us by name and knew what we liked to drink each night. Our room steward always efficiently had our room made-up anytime we left it. Other waiters and service personnel on the ship were attentive and courteous at all times.
Port & Shore Excursions On 4 of the 5 ports, we took part in excursions. Three of those excursions were booked through the cruise line with the one remaining excursion booked through a private company. My port reviews will have more details, but overall, we were pleased with the excursions and the efficiency of getting to and from the sites.
Stateroom We were in 7158, an E-class balcony stateroom. It was a great location far enough away from the main stairs that we never heard any external noise. From what we could tell, several of the E balconies on level 7 are bigger than other balconies because of their position above the Schooner Bar/Portofino/Chops. On the deck plans, you will see balconies 7152 to 7170 and 7652 to 7670 extend farther then the midship balconies. This gave us about 4 extra feet.
Dining We ate all dinner meals in the Main Dining Room at the 8:30 p.m. seating. We normally eat much earlier, but this was a great seating time for us. Returning from the ports in the late afternoon, we were able to do short activities, attend an early show at 7 p.m., and just relax before having to get ready for dinner. All of our meals were very good with great variety - at least 8 different entrEe choices across 2 different menus. We sat directly in the center of the main dining room on the lower level at a table of 6. We enjoyed our tablemates and like talking to them about their adventures at the end of each day. For breakfast and lunch, we typically ate at the Windjammer Cafe. We enjoyed the variety of menu items on the buffet as we could always find something good. They have plenty of fresh fruit in addition to desserts!
Entertainment On our cruise, there was a variety of entertainment: comedian (2 nights), Broadway style shows (2 nights), Motown group, Latin Dancing Group, and a musician/impersonator. The onboard orchestra was featured in nearly all the shows, and they were very good. Most of the shows were entertaining, but when the show was late (i.e. 10:30 p.m. after dinner), it was hard to stay awake in a dark, slightly rocking theater. The Cruise Director also put together the Love & Marriage show we attended. It was very funny and worth the time (though don't bring the young kids).
Disembarkation Our last morning on the ship was very smooth. I got up at 5 a.m. to watch the ship enter San Juan Harbor. It was very pretty in the calm of the predawn, and I think I was the only one up on the front of the ship besides the captain and crew! We were docking by about 6 a.m. Since we had a late flight out of San Juan, we were one of the last groups to disembark about 9:15 a.m. We checked out of the ship one last time with the swipe of our SetSail pass and then down the gangway to retrieve our luggage and then out through Customs. It took no more than 5 minutes.
Summary We thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise together, and we definitely think we picked the best ship and itinerary for us. I would highly recommend the Serenade of the Seas for any couple looking for a great getaway and trip to the Eastern/Southern Caribbean.
kjhighball’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 7158
Extra deep balcony gave plenty of room outside, no obstructions in view, quiet location
  Serenade of the Seas Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Barbados
    Barbados was our least favorite port, but I think it had to do with what we did (or what we didn't) do. We decided to not do an excursion and just head into to town on the waiting group taxis. We got on the taxi for the very short (5 minute) ride to downtown. Immediately upon getting out of the taxi, we were constantly propositioned by taxi drivers for an island tour, etc. We walked along the main street in the downtown area and found stores you were typically find in a shopping mall...nothing really unique. We decided to give up shopping and head to the Boatyard for some beach time. We found a nice taxi driver and decided to go ahead and take an hour island tour. It was an enjoyable way to get past the bad experience in the downtown. He dropped us at a beach right next to the Boatyard. We picked up a 2 chairs and a umbrella for $15 plus 3 free drinks. It was a quiet beach though you could still hear the part going on at the Boatyard. We later learned the Boatyard ran out of umbrellas and lounge chairs so it was good we didn't end up there.
    We spent about 2 hours on the beach, and we decided that is where we should have started the day: the sand was wonderful and the water was perfectly clear. If you go to Barbados, don't head downtown. Go straight to a beach or go on an excursion!
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  • Dominica
    If I have a chance on a cruise again, I definitely am going back to Dominica. This island was incredible. We booked our excursion through Bumpiing Tours based on the many excellent reviews here on cruisecritic.com. We were joined by at least 30 others also with Bumpiing. He had 4+ tour groups going. Levi did take one group himself, but our guide was Kelvin, who did a very good job. We took the Roseau Valley "Wet Tour". After dividing up the groups so they fit into the various vehicles, we walked about a block to a waiting 10-person taxi. Kelvin loaded the cooler and swim belts into the vehicle and away we went up the mountain to Titou Gorge. The drive up the mountain consisted of paved roads, new concrete roads, and dirt/asphalt. There was constant construction on the roads as we went up. Our driver did a great job of navigating pot holes, twists, turns, and dropoffs. Kelvin narrated the history of the island and stopped once along the way. We were the first group of the day to arrive at Titou Gorge so it gave us a few minutes alone that was great. The water was definitely cool as people say, but the experience makes you forget it. As Kelvin said to our group, you have to swim or you'll be frustrated when you don't! Next, we drove to Trafalgar Falls. Along the road the Trafalgar, we ran into our only issue on the trip: a concrete truck blocking the road for about 20 minutes. The road was only about 1 1/2 lanes wide, and there was no way to pass. We simply had to wait it out, but we found the road construction just to be typical of this part of the island. There were many other taxis and groups at Trafalgar, but it was not too crowded. Bring a $1 for the restroom which is not covered in your tour fee. We hiked to the falls and first got into the "warm" pools and then rock climbed our way all the way up to the base of the mama falls. The falls were cold water, but it was still very nice and refreshing. I definitely recommend the hike up to the base of the falls...your guide will help you get there safely. After the Falls, we drove through the Botanical Gardens for a quick driving tour, got to see the flattened bus, and then headed to Morne Bruce for a great overlook of the city and our cruise ship. Finally, we drove about 15 minutes south of the downtown Roseau to snorkel at Champagne Reef. The water was pretty clear, and the bubbles coming up from the bottom was definitely something different! Upon arriving back in Roseau, we walked around the few blocks near the port looking at all the outdoor shops and other shops. While the area right near the port was designed for tourist, this is a bustling downtown otherwise. We decided we wanted to get our passports stamps as we did on St. Kitts, but there was no one near the port to do it. We had to walk up the main street in front of the port about 10 minutes to the main police station. On the lower level of the police station, there is a small immigration office where we got our passports stamped. It is right next to the grocery store.
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  • St. Croix
    We decided on a morning excursion booked through Royal Caribbean on St. Croix: Salt River Kayaking. The cost was $89, which is about twice what you would pay if you just walk up to the Salt River for the kayaking tour. I guess you are paying the rest for the transit over. We boarded air-conditioned mini-buses on the pier in St. Croix about 8:30 a.m. and then drove 30 minutes across the island to Salt River. Upon arriving at Salt River, you really would not know its a National Historic Park. It doesn't have the typical signage/visitor stations of National Parks. The kayaks were waiting by Salt River Bay, and after a short briefing, we were on the kayaks and in the water. We kayaked across the bay to the Salt River, if it could be called that...it is a very short river, and you spent more time on the bay than anything else. Upon turning around at the end of the river, we landed on a beach where they provided snacks. There was not much to do on the beach besides walking around. We left the beach and went back to the starting point. If you want to kayak a good distance, I would not recommend this excursion. But if you just want to get out on the water and have fun, then it is OK.
    Back in Fredricksted, we walked around the town, which is pretty small. There was none of the true tourist shops found on other islands. There is a fort there to tour, but it appears pretty rundown. On one side of the pier is a beach, and on the other side is what appears to be a heavily eroded beach. Several vendors were setup outside the port.
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  • St. Kitts (Port Zante)
    We took an early morning excursion on St. Kitts booked through Royal Caribbean: Sky Safari Zip Lining. It was one of the first excursion we booked because we knew we wanted to zip line at some point during the trip. Upon disembarking on the ship, we joined up with our group inside the port terminal. After we were all there, they split us into groups for the taxi ride to the Sky Safari place. It was about 20 minutes, and the taxi driver was informative along the way giving a mini tour. Upon arriving at the Sky Safari location, we suited up for our first training zip line. It was short, and low to the ground. Next, we headed up the mountain for the real zip lines. There were four more lines, and all were a little different and fun! The guides were very professional. You can take your still and video camera on the zip line for some great pictures. After the 4 lines were over, we took at short walk to the botanical garden and a gift shop. It appears to be just part of their "package" but not really necessary.
    Upon arriving back in the town, we headed to the Immigration Office inside the port terminal to get our passports stamped since this was the first foreign port. We then walked through the town for shopping. There were some neat stores with lots of variety including an outdoor market. While not as many shops as St. Thomas, it definitely had a variety of nice stores with good tourist items.
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  • St. Thomas
    We planned a morning of shopping and an afternoon excursion on St. Thomas. We disembarked about 8:30 a.m., took the group taxi waiting at the dock, and headed to downtown. We arrive about 8:45 a.m. and found most stores to be empty as well as most shops still closed. That was fine as it allowed us to be the first customer with no crowds in most stores. We had purchased a Port and Excursion Book onboard on Saturday, and it had several free offers at many stores. We found the free offers to generally consist of a small jewel, necklace, or earring. Most stores wanted to up-sell you, but they were never pushy. We toured the main shopping stretch for about 1 hour, then walked over to the outdoor market near where the taxis leave back for the ship. We headed back to the ship about 10:45 a.m. We at lunch in the Windjammer and then headed back to the dock for our afternoon excursion.
    We booked the St. John Beach Tour and Snorkel through Royal Caribbean. We boarded a ferry boat that held probably 200 people for the 40 minute boat ride to St. John. People going on the St. John Eco Hike and Beach as well as the St. John Island Tour were also on the ferry. The ride to St. John was a little rough in parts when he was out in the open water between the islands. If you sit outside on the front, you will get wet! Upon arrival at St. John, you get immediately into a Safari Style Taxi for about a 15 minute ride through Virgin Island National Park to Trunk Bay. The taxi driver stopped a couple of points for pictures of the beaches. Upon arriving a Trunk Bay, there is a short walk to a snorkel gear area. A guide gets everyone suited up with a mask, snorkel, fins, and floatation vest. You can bring your own equipment if you have it. The water was "yellow flag" on the day we were there so we missed the crystal clear/calm water you hear about at Trunk Bay. But the guides were very nice and helped all the people not completely comfortable with snorkeling get into the water. After you snorkel for about 1.5 hours, you are back on the Safari Taxi for the ride back to the boat. There are no stops on the way back, and there is really no time for touring the town on St. John.
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